After two wildly productive years in the desert, the Arizona Cardinals are in for a year of question marks and fresh challenges. Gone are the shotgun arm of QB Kurt Warner, and the sure hands of wide receiver Anquan Boldin. The team will now look to their former first round pick, Matt Leinart to lead the way. Young receiver Early Doucett will have to step up as well. With Warner's pass heavy attack a thing of the past, the team will have to squeeze more out of their running game then they've seen in recent years.
Division: NFC West – Projected Finish: 2nd Place
Strength of Schedule - #32 = Best. The Cardinals are the fortunate benefactors of this years easiest schedule...at least on paper. This could help fantasy production, but it remains to be seen how much it well help overall.
When the Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart in 2006 they expected big things in a hurry. Instead aging QB Kurt Warner stepped in and brought the team a Superbowl appearance and a couple of divisional titles. Last year Leinart started one game and threw three picks against no touchdowns. Not exactly inspiring or fantasy viable. However they are in perhaps the NFL's worst division with the easiest schedule, so if Leinart can't make it happen this year the bust label is all but a forgone conclusion. I currently have him ranked 29th.
Remember, one time fantasy stud Derek Anderson is just waiting for the coaches to get frustrated with Lienart and give him a chance. Anderson likes to throw a lot and so do the Cards. Leinart will need a strong camp.
Sadly, this summer neither Cardinal QB has done nothing to inspire the coaches or the team with their performances. A trade for a third option may be looming.
The Cardinals are blessed with two very skilled tailbacks, but so far neither has exploded into fantasy threats as expected. Though both have shown sparks of brilliance here and there. It seems apparent that both will have to step up in 2010 and Chris 'Beanie' Wells is expected to be the primary benefactor. However, Tim Hightower should not be discounted. The two were fairly even in fantasy production in 2009, but Hightower had the better numbers overall. I have them ranked at 17th and 40th respectively but I fear Wells may be too high and Hightower too low, making Hightower a likely sleeper this year and Wells a potential overreach in drafts.
- Larry Fitzgerald - Usually the consensus number one fantasy WR. This year I move him to #10 just because of the team changes, and poor QB options.
- Steve Breaston - From 1000 yards in 2008 to 700 in 2009, both seasons only three TDs. He's just not fantasy viable.
- Early Doucett - Out with the Boldin, with the new. Doucett is heading into that magical 3rd year. This is his time to step up and shine. He's worth a later round flier.
Tight End has long been a fantasy black hole in Arizona. Veteran Anthony Becht and 4th year pro Ben Patrick aren't striking fear into the hearts of anyone. They combined for 3 TDs in 2009. Don't expect that to change in 2010.
Neil Rackers is out in Arizona, and 10 year veteran, Jay Feeley is in. Feely's played the last two season's with the New York Jets, and ended 2009 tied for seventh place in fantasy points at the position. The desert may be hell, but as the song goes, "hell ain't a bad place to be."
From a fantasy perspective, the Cardinals weren't that bad last year; 13th overall in fantasy points. This season they could improve upon those numbers playing against some weaker teams. For IDP players the names you want to know are: Linebackers - Daryl Washington. Defensive Backs - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson, and Kerry Rhodes. Defensive Linemen - Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.
2010 REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE
Wk Date Game Stadium Time (ET) 1 Sep 12 ARI @ STL Edward Jones Dome 4:15 PM 2 Sep 19 ARI @ ATL Georgia Dome 1:00 PM 3 Sep 26 OAK @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 4:15 PM 4 Oct 03 ARI @ SD Qualcomm Stadium 4:15 PM 5 Oct 10 NO @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 4:05 PM 6 Bye 7 Oct 24 ARI @ SEA Qwest Field 4:05 PM 8 Oct 31 TB @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 4:15 PM 9 Nov 07 ARI @ MIN Mall of America Field 1:00 PM 10 Nov 14 SEA @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 4:15 PM 11 Nov 21 ARI @ KC Arrowhead Stadium 1:00 PM 12 Nov 29 SF @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 8:30 PM 13 Dec 05 STL @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 4:15 PM 14 Dec 12 DEN @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 4:15 PM 15 Dec 19 ARI @ CAR Bank of America Stadium 1:00 PM 16 Dec 25 DAL @ ARI University of Phoenix Stadium 7:30 PM 17 Jan 02 ARI @ SF Candlestick Park 4:15 PM
You can't get much better in the coaching department than the guys who learned under Bill Cowher, Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm. Head coach Whisenhunt took over in 2007 and the team went 8-8 and 2nd in the division, in 2008, 9-7 when they won the divisional title and went to the Superbowl. Last year saw his team go 10-6 with another divisional title before they lost to the eventual Superbowl champs in the NFC Divisional playoff.
Whisenhunt faces new challenges this season, but he has way of keeping his team competitive. I expect a drop-off in 2010, but nothing horrendous.
On the other side of the ball, things only got better this off-season with the additions of rookie DT Dan Williams, and LB Daryl Washington. Both should improve their line upfront from day one. Grabbing veteran LB Joey Porter is a big boost, as well as stud DB Kerry Rhodes. But the team will need them both with the loss of veterans Karlos Dansby to the Dolphins, Antrel Rolle to the Giants and Betrand Berry to retirement. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis uses a leaning two-gap, 3-4 scheme.